KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 4 -- Powerpoint slides, workshops and conferences. Let's face it, most presentations are dry and information-heavy. Without a big shot of caffeine or a genuine interest in the topic, most people attending these presentations would just zone out.
Well, Sketch Post Studio offers a solution that is appealing, attractive and a sure-fire way to help the audience remember those bullet points at any seminar or presentation.
Founder Bernie Quah, 23, sketches your presentation in real time; adding life to words, giving colour to data. A cartoon version of the speaker complete with witty speech bubbles and quotes adding up to a quirky infographic is what Quah delivers even before the speaker steps off the stage.
“It started out as a hobby of mine, attending conferences and taking down notes. I’ve always written notes even during my college days. When I was studying, I would sketch and then pass it to the organizers after the event.
They would be impressed saying, ‘Somebody actually bothered to take notes!’” said Quah.
The young entrepreneur has two companies; one in Singapore and the other in Malaysia. Both are under the Sketch Post Studio umbrella where Quah is not just the founder but manager, administrator, artist, press liaison, accountant, secretary and marketing executive.
In case you still haven’t figured it out, it's a one-woman show by this young, creative interior architecture graduate.
“Two years ago I graduated from university and I went to Singapore to work. After that, I spent three months in San Francisco working for a creative agency. I was lucky to do internships in Singapore and Hong Kong when I was having semester breaks,” said Quah.
Why didn’t she continue doing interior architecture?
She explained that there was a lot of technical work, drafting and modelling in that line of work. She realised that she didn’t want to do that as a career. Quah wanted to travel and work and she was lucky to find a job in Singapore at a design consultancy company.
Building a network of contacts in Singapore, Quah then decided to start a company called Sketch Post Studio. Seeing that Malaysia was new to the whole concept of graphic recording, she leveraged on that opportunity to begin a new journey.
“I helped out at the recent TEDxKL, sketching boards for each speaker. Most of the time, girls would be interested to volunteer, offering to help colour for me,” said Quah. At the recent TEDxKL, she gave each speaker a sketch of their presentation as a gift.
Quah has been very supportive of TEDxKL, helping them out the previous year as well. She likes collecting data and turning them into interesting sketches.
What if the presentation is boring? Would it be harder for her to sketch then?
“I’m used to attending seminars and workshops. During my university years I would go to these events. You just have to listen more closely, pay attention to details. If possible, I would research the topic before the event. Most of my clients would pass me the presentation slides prior to the event. I would then research further on my own to provide more information. My favourite topics are design and technology,” she said.
If requested, Quah would sketch it first then scan and colour it in Photoshop. She doesn't use ordinary markers to draw her sketches because they are usually watery and too thin to see. Her sketching markers are from Germany.
So far, her clientele consists of banks, consultancy firms and corporate businesses doing CSR projects.
“The best is to study, like before an exam. It's actually like a quick exam on the topic,” said Quah on preparing herself before each seminar.
There were times where she was asked to do panel discussions too, where prior research was impossible. But it's not a big deal for Quah as she is used to turning any topic, whether interesting or boring, into something that would interest her audience.
The only challenge Quah faces is when speakers get nervous and she cannot hear what they say. “I would usually just fill in the blanks but so far there are no speakers who have been too nervous.”
Despite having to travel between Singapore and Malaysia on alternate weeks, she is still energetic... chirpy even. One cannot get enough of her enthusiasm, her passion for this niche industry.
“In US and Europe, graphic recording is quite common. There are usually three to four people in a team though. I push myself to do it on my own because I think it’s the best time to do this. I never thought anyone locally would do this,” said Quah.
Through recommendations and her interview on radio station BFM, big companies hired Sketch Post Studio. Whenever she sketches, everything happens at the same time: the talking, her mind and hand working very quickly to map out the drawing, what message she wants to get across and the space on her board.
“It's all these small elements put together. I just go with the flow.
“My main motivation is to help people see information differently and make everything interesting. It's about distilling quick snapshots and summary of the points the speaker makes.”
Her sketches are not only for the audience to remember what happened at the event but also for companies to use as press releases or PDFs for marketing purposes. Graphic recording turns things people can’t visualise into something they can understand.
Right now, Quah’s focus is on getting the word out there about Sketch Post Studio and what it can do for conferences, seminars, talks, workshops and even meetings and panel discussions.
“I just want to enhance my work and my dream is to handle more clients. I would like to get a level of quality, to build a standard on what work can be,” she said.
Sharing information is Quah’s main goal, to make data more attractive and to remember how the event made the participants feel. Another thing, Quah notes, is that people who didn’t attend the event can also see what happened at the event.
For people at the event, it’s not meant to give every single detail of what transpired but to be a trigger to remember a certain point. Graphic recording appeals to youth who are often found taking photos and videos while Quah is sketching at an event. They would then share it on social media.
“It gets the conversation going and for companies, it is also branding for them.
“For me, this is like a lifelong scholarship where I’m paid to learn,” she said.
Check out Sketch Post Studio at www.sketchpoststudio.com.
This story was first published in Crave in the print edition of The Malay Mail on October 3, 2013.